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Vol 9 No 2 (2022)

Escaping the Clinic: Exposure as Care among Military Medical Professionals at War

December 13, 2020
April 14, 2022


This article examines exposure in the mobile reach of care in war in order to theorise exposure as care. It does so from the margins, focusing on US military medical professionals of the officer class in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, who feel distanced from the ‘real’ war experience represented by the infantry soldier, and thus engage in practices of exposure to gain the ‘trust’ and ‘respect’ of their soldier-patients. To grasp something of the promise and perils of exposure and its everyday enactments, I analyse one army physician assistant’s accounts of secretly stealing away on combat missions and the use of an ambulation tool called ‘the walkabout’ by the military mental healthcare community. The material, operational, and tactical settings of counterinsurgency and the professional cultures of military care occupations dynamically intersect to engender specific contexts for, opportunities within, and risks associated with exposure among military elite. An examination of exposure reveals that military medical professionals recast the hegemonic authority of proximity to soldiering in terms of the ethical norms and professional values of medicine: in a word, as care.